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Department of Justice Components

Many different parts of the Department of Justice are actively engaged in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes, stabilizing and supporting trafficking victims, and expanding outreach and training. The Civil Rights Division, Criminal Division, U.S. Attorneys' Offices, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Office of Justice Programs all play important roles in the Department’s broad-based anti-trafficking efforts. Many of these components contain multiple offices or sections that each work on different aspects of the fight against human trafficking.

Components include:

Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Civil Rights Division

Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, a specialized prosecution unit within the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, was formed in 2007 to consolidate the expertise of some of the nation’s top human trafficking prosecutors and to lead prosecutions of novel, complex, multi-jurisdictional and international human trafficking cases involving forced labor, international sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of adults through force, fraud, or coercion, in collaboration with United States Attorneys’ Offices nationwide.  In addition to its prosecutions, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit plays a leading role in formulating and implementing path-breaking enforcement initiatives, strengthening strategic partnerships, and developing and delivering capacity-building programs on best practices in survivor-centered human trafficking investigations and prosecutions for federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement and non-governmental partners. 

Criminal Division

Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS)

The Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) leads the Criminal Division’s campaign against the sexual exploitation of children. CEOS, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s offices, works to investigate and prosecute federal child sexual exploitation cases, including child sex trafficking and extraterritorial child sexual abuse and exploitation (often misleadingly referred to as “child sex tourism”). Within CEOS is the High Technology Investigation Unit, whose Digital Investigative Analysts provide critical and innovative support to cases involving digital media. CEOS uses its experience and expertise in child sexual exploitation cases to shape domestic and international policy, launch national and international investigations against the worst offenders, and provide guidance and training to other prosecutors and agents, both within and outside the federal government and at home and abroad. CEOS develops strategic partnerships among and outside of law enforcement circles in order to expand the effectiveness of the Department’s overall enforcement efforts, having developed critical partnerships with key non-governmental organizations, foreign governments and entities, and the private sector. 

Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS)

The Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) leads the Department’s anti-money laundering and asset recovery efforts. The Money Laundering Section works specifically against human trafficking by: (1) investigating, coordinating, and prosecuting complex, multi-district, and international money laundering and criminal and civil asset forfeiture cases against suspected human trafficking groups and their assets (including property that facilitates human trafficking), and against individuals and entities who facilitate the movement of money for such groups; (2) providing legal and policy assistance and training to federal, state, and local prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, with specific attention to the use of financial-investigation tools to strengthen human trafficking investigations and cases around the country and overseas; (3) assisting Departmental and interagency policymakers by developing and reviewing legislative, regulatory, and policy initiatives that may affect cases in its covered areas; and (4) through its management of the Department’s Asset Forfeiture Program, distributing forfeited funds and properties to victims of human trafficking (both labor and sex trafficking), as appropriate, and adjudicating petitions for remission or mitigation of forfeited assets. The Money Laundering Section works in close partnership with the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and United States Attorneys’ Offices around the country.

Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT)

OPDAT draws on DOJ’s resources and expertise to strengthen foreign criminal justice sector institutions and enhance the administration of justice abroad. OPDAT designs and executes anti-trafficking technical assistance and training programs overseas to strengthen international capacity to combat human trafficking. Drawing on the expertise of experienced trafficking prosecutors from CRT’s HTPU, CEOS, and USAOs, OPDAT has developed and delivered programs providing expertise and assistance in drafting and implementing anti-trafficking legislation, successfully investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes, and assisting human trafficking victims. When appropriate, OPDAT collaborates on human trafficking programs with ICITAP, its sister organization that develops and provides training to foreign police and criminal investigation institutions.

OPDAT provides technical assistance throughout the world based on a holistic model encompassing the 3Ps of human trafficking: protection, prosecution, and prevention. OPDAT assistance includes training and developmental projects with overseas law enforcement officials geared toward strengthening our international partners’ capabilities to (1) protect victim witnesses and thereby encourage their participation in investigations and prosecutions; (2) investigate and prosecute trafficking cases; and (3) prevent transnational trafficking. OPDAT also works with host countries on developing evidence-collection techniques that can generate evidence usable in transnational prosecutions, including those brought by DOJ in the United States. OPDAT assists countries with legislative reform and drafting in the area of human trafficking to ensure that such legislation is victim assistance-centered and compliant with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (also referred to as the Palermo Protocol).

International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP)

ICITAP uses the following strategies to build overseas law enforcement capacity to combat human trafficking:

  • Increasing awareness and understanding in host country law enforcement institutions of the devastating impact to victims and threats to health and security posed by human trafficking;
  • Helping foreign governments create new law enforcement tools to combat human trafficking through legislative reform (whenever possible this is done in concert with OPDAT);
  • Building sustainable institutional capacity to fight human trafficking through the development of host country policies, procedures, and training resources and capabilities;
  • Building tactical and investigative capacity, including the creation of specialized investigative units;
  • Building technical capacity, including case management, border security, other systems for data collection, data sharing, and data analysis;
  • Improving coordination of police and prosecutors on human trafficking cases;
  • Incorporating human trafficking—one of the revenue sources of organized crime groups—as a component in assistance programs focused on combating transnational organized crime;
  • Facilitating cross-border, law enforcement cooperation among countries in the region that are part of the same human trafficking network;
  • Facilitating partnerships between police and other stakeholders, including victims’ advocacy groups, labor and social protection organizations, and the community; and
  • Ensuring coordination with international organizations and other donors.

United States Attorneys' Offices

The United States Attorneys' Offices (USAOs) prosecute defendants charged with human trafficking crimes, including labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of children, sometimes collaborating with specialized prosecution units such as the HTPU or CEOS. Prosecutors and victim assistance personnel provide human trafficking victims services and ensure victims are accorded their rights throughout the criminal justice process. USAOs lead or participate in human trafficking task forces and collaborate with federal, state, local and nonprofit community partners to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking.

National Indian Country Training Initiative

The National Indian Country Training Initiative (NICTI), within the Office of Legal Education, provides training at the National Advocacy Center (NAC) and in the field for federal, state and tribal criminal justice and social service professionals working on public safety issues in tribal communities. Training is also provided via webinar and through the distribution of written products. Training on the specific crime of human trafficking and related topics include forensic interviewing of child and adolescent victims, sexual assault expert witness training, investigating cases of missing or murdered Indigenous persons, and conducting trauma informed investigations and prosecutions. All training is provided free of charge.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for investigating human trafficking and supporting the victims of this crime.  That work is carried out by the Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, and the Victim Services Division.

Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Unit (CACHTU)

The FBI investigates all forms of human trafficking, which fall under the FBI’s Violent Crime Section, Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Unit (CACHTU). CACHTU has programmatic oversight over all FBI-led human trafficking investigations, including sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and domestic servitude. 

In addition to human trafficking offenses, CACHTU has a number of investigative priorities, including the investigation of child sexual exploitation enterprises, trafficking of child sexual abuse material, sextortion, domestic and international child abductions and parental kidnapping, and other offenses involving children. CACHTU oversees the Innocence Lost National Initiative (ILNI), which focuses on combating sex trafficking of minors and the execution of Operation Cross Country, the FBI’s annual law enforcement initiative focused on recovering underage victims of sex trafficking and drawing the public’s attention to the problem of sex trafficking at home and abroad. 

Through its Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces (CEHTTF), the FBI works closely with numerous local, state and federal law enforcement partners, as well as non-governmental agencies and other non-profit organizations on the front lines to combat human trafficking. These partnerships facilitate collaborative efforts in an ongoing, affirmative effort to recover victims of trafficking and ensure successful prosecution of those who seek to exploit adult and minor victims.  

Victim Services Division

The FBI’s Victim Services Division (VSD) is responsible for ensuring that identified victims are notified of their rights, provided services to which they are entitled, to include case updates, and receive tailored assistance to ensure victim needs are addressed throughout the investigative and criminal justice process.

The VSD provides services to all federal crime victims, to include victims of violent crimes, crimes against children, civil rights violations, and human trafficking. To fulfill these responsibilities, the VSD has approximately 173 Victim Specialists (VSs) located throughout the nation's 56 field offices, 25 regionally located Child/Adolescent Forensic Interviewers (CAFIs), 2 Child Victim Program Advisors (CVPAs) embedded within the Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Unit, and 11 regional Program Managers who provide guidance, oversight, and case support to the VSs.  

The FBI utilizes a victim-centered, multi-disciplinary approach when investigating human trafficking cases by incorporating its VSs as a vital part of the operational team. The VSs are responsible for serving as the primary point-of-contact and liaison with victims to provide services, information, referrals, and coordinate case status updates. VSs also provide crisis intervention and assess and address the unique needs of each victim, which often includes food and clothing, emergency medical care, and shelter or housing. VSs also conduct human trafficking presentations to other professionals in the community to provide awareness and education around how to best support victims and identify signs that someone might be a victim of trafficking. Due to the traumatizing nature of human trafficking offenses, these multi-disciplinary relationships are instrumental to the success of human trafficking investigations.  
To ensure the needs of victims are met throughout the judicial process, the VSs coordinate with the United States Attorneys’ Office Victim Witness Coordinators following indictment of the case to provide a continuum of services for the victims, should the victims choose to continue services.  

CAFIs are experts in providing evidence based, developmentally appropriate, and legally defensible interviews for minor victims and adult victims in special circumstances. CAFIs also provide consultation and trainings to investigative and child advocacy personnel on forensically interviewing specific victim populations, to include human trafficking victims.  

The CVPAs serve as subject matter experts on trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate victim assistance to children, vulnerable populations, and their families. CVPAs also serve as the FBI’s subject matter experts on issues related to child development and mental health impact of child victimization as described in federal legislation and the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance (AGGVWA). CVPAs liaise with national and global experts of child victimization and human trafficking to develop and plan innovative practices that benefit victims in FBI cases and serve as a model for other agency partners.   

Office of Justice Programs

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is a federal agency that provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance, statistics, and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  Its six program offices support state and local crime-fighting efforts, fund thousands of victim service programs, help communities manage sex offenders, address the needs of youth in the system and children in danger, and provide vital research and data. 

Office for Victims of Crime

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) works to enhance the Nation’s capacity to assist crime victims and to provide leadership in changing attitudes, policies, and practices in ways that will promote justice and healing for all victims.  In this capacity, OVC strives to uphold the intent of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations to ensure that all trafficking victims—regardless of immigration status, gender, or form of trafficking—receive support in accessing the services they need.  OVC manages the largest amount of funding across the Federal Government dedicated to providing services to victims of human trafficking. OVC strengthens the victim service response to human trafficking through grant funding, training and technical assistance, and leadership in the field.  Funding supports the delivery of direct services such as case management, housing, and legal assistance, as well as multidisciplinary collaboration and state-level approaches to investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes and to identifying and serving victims. To learn more about OVC’s anti-trafficking work and to access the interactive grantee map, please visit

National Institute of Justice

The National Institute of Justice funds research on human trafficking and evaluates promising practices.  The overall emphasis for NIJ’s research lies on (1) strengthening the science of measuring the prevalence of human trafficking, (2) preventing trafficking, (3) improving the identification, investigation, and prosecution of traffickers, and (4) identifying best practices for identifying and providing services to victims. While NIJ focuses on human trafficking as it occurs in the United States, it draws on research findings from around the world.

Bureau of Justice Statistics

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collects and disseminates data on human trafficking cases at various levels of government and on victim services providers that support human trafficking victims. See BJS’s most recent report for more information.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, funds the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program and implements a number of training and capacity-building initiatives related to responding to and addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Visit OJJDP’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children webpage and Human Trafficking – Services for Survivors webpage for additional information.

Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office)

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) is the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for advancing the practice of community policing by the nation's state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies through information and grant resources. 

Community policing provides a promising roadmap to tackling human trafficking with the emphasis on problem solving, building partnerships, and shifting the organizational culture and structure. COPS Office resources highlight promising practices that law enforcement can use to address human trafficking.

Office for Access to Justice

The Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) works to increase access to counsel and legal assistance for human trafficking victims. Operating primarily through the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, ATJ collaborates with 22 participating federal partners to inspire new collaborations to jointly serve the nation’s poor and middle class, including victims of human trafficking, and to better engage civil legal aid providers as federal grantees, sub-grantees, and partners.  Since the inception of the Roundtable, participating agencies have worked with civil legal aid partners, including non-profit organizations and the private bar, through outreach calls, webinars and other strategies to identify areas in which legal services can advance various federal program objectives, such as ending human trafficking and serving the needs of victims.

Updated April 24, 2023